Processed in digiKam: Black-and-White Conversion

Thank you for the opportunity to submit for the Processed in digiKam series. I’ve used Showfoto as a stand alone photo editor for a couple of years now. It strikes a great balance between power and ease of use. Just recently I’ve restarted using digiKam to aid in managing the mass of my images. The tagging and organizational tools are what I’ve been needing for far too long.

The B&W conversion tools in digiKam are wonderful. If freehand area selection and a feathered burn and dodge tool were available they’d be perfect.

About the attached pair. In my early years of photography all “we” did was black and white. Color was too expensive and you couldn’t set up a color darkroom at home. Teachers encouraged B&W so students could stick to the fundamentals of seeing and visualizing. Over a decade and thousands and thousands of rolls of film I developed the ability to see the B&W image and in the real world scene before me. In the years between then and now I’ve switched to (mostly) digital shooting and always in color. However, the ability, and habit, to see the world in B&W persists to this day.

It is especially fun to see a scene whose meaning will be very different when viewing in color vs B&W. The playful pink of the scooter makes everything else in the color frame a supporting element for it. When converted to B&W the scooter becomes one of many elements presented by the strong side lighting. The mottling of the fence and the strong corner shadows take on equally important roles.

The B&W conversion tools in digiKam provide all the needed tools for a film-esque conversion of your image.

Film: Every film has its idiosyncrasies. digiKam provides emulations for the standards of Agfa, Ilford, and Kodak. For my images I usually choose Ilford HP5 – the film I used for years. If you don’t have a favorite click through the options paying special attention to the highlights and shadows.

Lens Filters: In the days of film one had to choose in advance. Typically using a yellow or red filter to keep tone in the sky or a green filter to enhance skin tone variance. Now the filter can be changed at processing time to best fit the particular scene. This is one of the reasons I feel little nostalgia for the days of film.

Tone: Tone used to be controlled by the choice of printing paper. Did one get the green of student budget choice Kodak polycontrast? The warm brown of Portriga? The neutral of Ilford
or Seagull papers? Did you sepia tone for a older, nostalgic look? Perhaps use selenium toning for its split tone but overall coolness? All are now at your finger tips with digiKam. I prefer the luminous platinum tones on almost everything.

Luminosity: Here one can grab the tonal range and bend it to simulate the effects of tweaking exposure and development of the film. The overall contrast range of the image and the tonal curves can be modified to greatly affect the overall mood of the image.

These four tools provide a great deal of creative flexibility when converting your digital images to B&W. Fortunately they are also easy to use. I encourage you to select a few images and spend some time in creative play.

Michael Rasmussen


If you use digiKam for processing photos, why not share your photo editing techniques and tips with other users and showcase your best images? I invite you to participate in the Processed in digiKam feature on this blog. Submission rules are simple: send original and edited photos (should be at least 800px on the shortest side) along with a brief description of the editing process to dmpop@linux.com. Feel free to be as verbose or concise as you like. You can describe a specific feature in digiKam that you find particularly useful, or provide a more detailed walkthough of the editing process.

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